Slavko kopac quotes


„What do you need the definitions for? They are anyhow just a half of the truth. If you really will, it is the work of a man who is not aware of what he’s doing. Can you imagine that a man who spends his whole life in a mental institution can create a masterpiece? You ask yourself: How come? It’s a drive even a normal person isn’t aware of. The elements of spontaneity and immediacy make every man express himself. No matter in what way. Dubuffet made a collection also of madmen’s texts. It’s an extraordinary language. With Art brut, we want to affirm that each one of us is a potential painter, poet, musician, and that everyone can create a good painting, a good verse or a good musical note. One just has to find the right moment for it and be brave. For me, Art brut is a living space, perpetual excitement. One cannot approach that art with pedagogic prejudices: as what drives or messages are. It’s pure spontaneity, exuberance, lunacy, as you wish”.*

Kopac's art, Promenade, 1949
Promenade, 1949


Surrealism has never captured me. Me and Breton had some meeting points, but also many differences. I didn’t fit in with Breton’s surrealistic gospel”.*


“Normally, I don’t like the word – professionally – profession is something which deforms you. A painter who is a professional, he is, I think, a lost man. Painting, it is like breathing. You work because you have to, because it makes you happy and, as for a painful childbirth, I don’t know of it”.**


Kopac's art, Butterfly, 1961
Butterfly, 1961


“I tell you, that was a beautiful school and, today, I’m still thinking and envying those friends of mine who were that lucky, because, in other schools, the treatment was completely different. There, the professor would be one who would teach you how to hold your paintbrush, would teach you how to look at things and would endeavour to be a teacher. And I think that there is no place for such tutorship in art. I think that a man, finally that is the whole Art Brut theory – the less he knows and the less he’s skilled, the more sincere and fairer and to be himself he would be. One can learn anything. The school, as any school, trains you to a certain point to be a good technician, to learn how you should work, how you should mix, how to spread colour and all that, but it isn’t enough. I even think that it is bad”.***


Kopac's art, Black soil, 1961
Black soil, 1961


“(Dubuffet) He was a man who, at that time, was the head of the revolution, he was the one who started applying all those ideas, all those anti-academic ideas, that painting doesn’t have to be engaged and that it doesn’t have to be a result of some heavy knowledge and reflections. Thanks to our first quest for the truth, the Art Brut collection was born; you know what Art Brut is, although you call it ugly art, raw art. It is an attempt to find things which people, who are far from every cultural centre, who don’t know what a museum is, who don’t know what art is, who don’t know what an exhibition is, do and who do it always out of their personal drive and needs. Sometimes, it happens that it lasts an entire life, on occasions it lasts 6 months, but those are always so fresh, so deep and so visually perfect things that one has to admit and say that one can be free only in this way, unattached and distanced from all that this civilisation of ours offers us, with all its possibilities, where every day they programme and condition us with how to spend the day. It is the only healthy and the only important and, I believe, the only one which is entitled to be called art. For all those others, I wouldn’t use that name”.***


Kopac's art, big head character, around 1961
Big head character, around 1961


“I never, or seldom say, that I’m a painter, because I think that it means nothing. And when I say it, I say that I sometimes paint, but that in itself, it is completely wrongly set. Because, a painter is a person who completed the art academy, left with a diploma; it is a person who was set, to whom they started building a small halo around his head and he has that same halo in the street, he carries it at home and everywhere he goes. This halo is already present and the whole life revolves around making it shine as strongly as possible, being richer and dazzling others. This halo means a guaranteed income. This is exactly what bothers me, that to paint, you have to have and make a circle of people around you who will do it and who will, eventually, succeed in making your life easier, allow you to find a beefsteak more easily, pay more easily for it and to bring it home. And this is why I believe that, in that sense, an artist is mistaken, that’s to say, he isn’t mistaken, but puts himself into the position of being subjugated. He has to find that circle of people, must captivate those people with what he creates or let those people captivate him by their wishes, and then he becomes an instrument, he does what a person before him wants of him. So, I think that, in that sense, an artist loses the first trace of freedom and then that halo and that chase for that halo, it is what lies in human nature and, finally, it is not that only bread and wine or bread and milk are important; what is also important is a large apartment, wallpaper is important, northern light is important. So those wishes and those compromises increase from day to day and, in the end, one loses himself and becomes less his own. One would say, becomes, if he is at all lucky and smart, what before was a painter, that’s to say, he’s the document of his time, he has is nothing else to say, he only copies what he sees and serves it to us”.***


Kopac's art, Horses, 1947
Horses, 1947


“Certain painters in the Middle Ages and Renaissance had their painters who finished the work for them and who, according to their model, repaired paintings. These are those technicians and they were, most probably, much more talented painters than us who come from the academy today. Today’s Kodak is the one which will picture our reality, record it, for what’s to come. Today, everything is written down, recorded, that moment has no longer any sense. A painter today doesn’t have to and mustn’t be any longer the painter of that reality. Let him turn around, let him become something else, let him sing, go mad, let it be the echo of his being”.***


Kopac's art, The winner, 1949
The winner 1949


“Picasso was the first to say: “Open the windows!”. I’m adding that it is not enough. Open your windows and doors and not only open but smash the glass, as windows and doors can be closed, that’s why they need to be smashed”.***


“When I started, we had approximately 200 or 300 documents and, after 35 years, we had around 5 thousand in a large collection and equally so in the collection which houses those of Art Brut since its existence, since there were exhibitions, since it was written about and since we published our periodicals, which now continue to be issued in Switzerland. The world started acquainting with it, the world started being interested in it and everything today that is a little bit outside of some norms, all that smells a little bit of something that is revolutionary, obtains this label Art Brut. So that, actually, there is, thanks to the critics and people who write, a danger of the Art Brut school being created, because, it was concluded, I believe that it’s a way to find solutions for this unfortunate moment, when we no longer know where we’re going, when we are, headless and madly, looking for new paths”.***



*Mirko Galić; Second reading – Talks,  Matica Hrvatska, Zagreb 2007

**Antun Babić – Life and Work of Slavko Kopac, printed by Zebra, Vinkovci, 2005

***Interview from  8th of August 1984 for the radio show Meetings and Acquaintances


During my stay in Paris, I saw the arrival of Germans, in the Saint-Jacques street, where Guy Papa had his shop. You can just imagine a painter’s soul before terrifying bands of German soldiers. One can be affected by war in many ways; in my case, it seems to me, it strengthened my maturity, sharpened my sensibility.*


Kopac's art, untitled, 1945/46 Untitled, 1945/46


I believe that I wasn’t even eight days in Paris when Dubuffet saw me. We talked for a long time; in fact, he was talking and I was listening. And he said to me: – I’d like to see what you do. Do show me your work one day. Less than a week after that, I came to our next rendezvous with a few pieces of my work. He looked at me carefully and said: – After dinner, you will accompany me to my studio to see for yourself that what you were doing in Italy, I’m doing here. This was when we, for the first time, concluded what everyone was saying later – that we were on the same wavelength, that we were a part of the same story, which, for then, was revolutionary.


Our paths ran in parallel; I worked without knowing what he was doing and, in turn, he didn’t know what Kopac was doing in Florence.*

Kopac's art, Hunting wild boar, 1948 Huntitng wild boar, 1948


What brought us together was the same outlook on painting. We were working together in his, I stress, his Art brut. I had a rather free hand in deciding what would be admitted and what would go out, but Art brut was not mine, nor did I ever act like that. Was Dubuffet unpleasant? He would sometimes impose the choice. He made me take French citizenship. He told me: Kopac, I would like you to take over the foundation. To do so, you have to have French citizenship”.*


For me, Paris was a city of dreams. I used to tell myself: if I can’t make it any other way, I’ll walk to Paris; I was that attracted to it. When I finally arrived there, it was on 30th November 1939.*


„If I’ve ever done anything worthy in my life, then it’s my contribution to Art brut. For me, it is more important than anything I made on canvas. For twenty years, there was only one underground line for me – from my home to Art brut and back. On Saturdays and Sundays, I would paint some silly things of mine, just like some Sunday painter. I was fortunate that, like a kangaroo, I carried my painting children with me, from Zagreb to Italy, from Italy to France”.*


Kopac's art, Mother, 1949 Mother, 1949


I lived in Paris. I arrived in France I think on 8th August 1948 and four days after that I met Jean Dubuffet. It was a great encounter, because of what I showed to him, what he showed to me, what we could say to one another, as I was still mixing French and Italian, all of that made us conclude that, although distanced one from another, we walk the same paths, that’s to say, we’re looking for the same paths. And then he engaged me. In those days, the idea of establishment of  Art Brut started and I was hired to be responsible for that. This resulted in my being the curator of that gallery for 35 years, of that collection and in my passing through all the phases of its organisation which has now ended up in Switzerland.***


Kopac's art, Encouter, 1961 Encounter, 1961


That was a great encounter. One found all that he maybe secretly admitted to himself. This purification of mine, if we can call it that, started in Italy. I was there during the war, there was a group of people, artists, painters, smart people, who studied big and high sciences and that was a core of those grand, grand reflections and debates. Every day, we would meet in the shadow of that Batister in front of the cathedral, spending hours and hours talking. It started over there; I went through my second liberation there. The first one happened when I arrived in Paris with the French Government grant and when I found Paris in darkness, all the museums closed and all that I had left were walks, looking at those Paris chimneys and that Paris blue sky, which was still so beautiful. And then, it was there that I started liberating myself for the first time; when I came there, I forgot and tried to see the world with different eyes and in a different light than we in Paris used to look at it. And when I came to Paris for the first time, it was in 1939 and my only wish was to see the world in a different way than people in Paris see it. For all of us, Paris was the place where one just had to go. Living without Paris, not knowing Paris, that was a sign that you will never succeed in life or that you would succeed but I don’t know at what price and with what energy. And there is where it all started.***


Kopac's art, Deer at water spring, 1947/48 Deer at water spring, 1947/48


I believe that the most important thing is to turn to your own inside, create and find that cocoon, that hole, and live with a little light which your little light bulb can provide.***


I feel not only liberated, but also free. I told you once that freedom is always very expensive. And I’m telling you now that I had paid a lot for it and that I’m very pleased and that I don’t need anything.***


Kopac's art, Tango, 1988 Tango, 1988


8 days following my arrival, I entered Art Brut and started there managing that, at that time, small collection, I started that job. Dubuffet then went to El Golea, to paint and look at that Arab world. During that period, Breton, who was in the first Art Brut committee, board, who collaborated with Paulhan and others, replaced Dubuffet and came every day in the afternoon to those premises and so we together looked at what needed to be done, what we needed to reply to and, within about one month, it all started. Breton didn’t know me then at all, to what extent I was a painter, I don’t know, I was always saved again in life by maybe so-called charm; everybody always said it and maybe my whole behaviour, because I’m a man without, they would say in Vinkovci, fussiness, which means direct, so it somehow started and I had my first exhibition in 1949 and that was a big event. I then made with Breton that plaque which was one of his most favourite among all the others ever published. And he wrote there, I made a of sketch how he should organise it and we made it together and together signed it and, for me, it is a bright spot. I’m talking about a man who was exceptionally dear to me, one of the rare gentlemen I’ve ever met in my life. Then, around him, there were Jean Paulhan and Benjamin Péret, who wrote the foreword for my first exhibition. I met Michaux every week at least once in the evening and with Dubuffet. I entered that world which was really closed to everyone. How come? I always say how that small boy from the Vinkovci dust could just happen in Paris and enter what was closed to all. At Breton’s door, there was a paper, no journalists, no reporters, nobody could ring the bell because he had banned it. I socialised with him and what’s nice is that they never intended or wanted to find in me a surrealist painter; they accepted what I brought.***



*Mirko Galić; Second reading – Talks,  Matica Hrvatska, Zagreb 2007

**Antun Babić – Life and Work of Slavko Kopac, printed by Zebra, Vinkovci, 2005

***Interview from  8th of August 1984 for the radio show Meetings and Acquaintances




„I’m not interested in what I see, but in what I experience. Since the invention of the camera, painting had to go another way. I’m not interested in God’s tree; I think about a tree that I will build. It is different, perhaps less beautiful, but it is my tree. Here, do you see this painting of mine (pointing at the canvass from 1975): a tree, completely different from that you can see in nature, or in a photograph. Don’t you think now that I couldn’t paint a tree just the same as it i sin nature? But I don’t do that, because for me, it is my experience of that tree that is important and not the tree itself. A painter expresses feelings: he doesn’t make a description of it and he doesn’t recount. That’s a waste of time”.*


Kopac's art, Flowered three, 1962 Flowered tree, 1962


„I recon I wasn’t even 15 when I got hold of a book which considerably determined me: that was a book about the great Austrian painter, Schiele. For me, he remains equally interesting and smart today, as he was at the time when I discovered him. But I never copied, not him or anyone else”.*


„The big Museum of Etruscan Art was closed at the time. But I pulled some ticks and found a man who opened it for me. When I saw it, I said to myself that I’d never look at anything anymore. Since then, I’ve been avoiding museums, galleries, exhibitions. It might seem pretentious, but I’m closing my eyes in order to remain as clean as possible. Everything happens here (pointing at his heart) and not here (pointing at his eye)”.*


Kopac's art, Profile, 1962 Profile, 1962


„I don’t like to be compared to anyone, not even to Dubuffet, to whom I’m attached the most. We are two men who like the same thing. I don’t know whether it was fortunate or unfortunate, but we met on the same path. What we created was close. I was in an unfavorable position, as Dubuffet started ruling the world. What could I, a man from the suburbs of Europe, do? Either to move away or to bow to him. All right, I didn’t move away, but I didn’t bow to him either. Why would I? My famous cow was created before Dubuffet’s cows.*


„There is nothing worse than living as a professional. Just imagine a poet who is writing poems, thinking whether they’ll appeal to the publisher and get his fee, possibly, and how much. That is a dreadful destiny which, as a painter, I’m trying to avoid. There’s nothing worse than holding my paintbrush and thinking whether someone will buy my painting. What do I experience then? Worries and not joy. This is where painting stops and trade starts. While painting, I’m having fun, I’m happy; I give a party for myself. All the rest is corrupt business, sellouts, prostitution. There’s no difference: it’s like when a woman puts on her makeup to go out in the street or to a night club to find a customer. The same will be done by a „professional“ if the most important thing for him becomes to sell his painting, to appeal.“*


Kopac's art, Three heads, 1963 Three heads, 1963


“It is impossible for me to work, to be happy unless I’m constantly free, without being exclusively attached to any person, establishment or community which would shut the door of my studio before any chance of a meeting, of a new and unexpected look. The immensity, the traces of those meetings, in fact I find them continually present in my work. They bring out in me an emotion and a constant surprise. My work is only the expression of a need for freedom, continually searched for.”*


For me, an experience is a short moment. When I say short, it can be an afternoon, two hours or half an hour. And if, within that time, I don’t do what I wanted or what I want, I leave it, I abandon it. For me, it is a game before everything else. I don’t think of the eyes of whoever will, one day, look at it. This is my personal problem, it’s my story, it’s my way to live and to build my own life, to find the sense of it and to give it meaning.***


Kopac's art, Three hives 1991 Three hives, 1991


I’m feeling as a great sinner, because, when you’re listening to me, you can say, and say the same thing to myself, how’s this man talking against this professional art, how dare he and how can he accept to exhibit. Because this is in contradiction. I rarely exhibited when I was in Art Brut exactly because I believed that I had to live in line with what I was defending. I was against museums, against galleries, against all that was related to that business. But, in the past, from time to time, I came out in time to make the assessment where I was.  And, usually, that was a moment which I consider as necessary and which, even today, seems to me as necessary, but which made me return to my hole as soon and as quickly as possible. And today, I believe that I have reached those years when I have no desires or needs in the sense of luxury, expensive appliances and similar. I can no longer fall into the trap that anyone can deceive me.***



*Mirko Galić; Second reading – Talks,  Matica Hrvatska, Zagreb 2007

**Antun Babić – Life and Work of Slavko Kopac, printed by Zebra, Vinkovci, 2005

***Interview from  8th of August 1984 for the radio show Meetings and Acquaintances